Why was that gender inversion important?
SG: “It does seem such a crucial point about the original, that man – whether it be ‘the man’, or ‘mankind’, or ‘mankind under the dominion of men’ – makes the fatal error of choosing the past over the future. That’s this kind of immanent critique that the film suggests. So, it seemed important to bring that out.”
JE: “But he also points to a quiet…f you think about the period in which [Marker] wrote La Jetée, ’62, y’know, the women’s movement. He quietly has a kind of proto-feminist movement, because it’s the woman who’s allowed the futurity.”
SG: “That’s what I mean: [Marker’s] critique of mankind is very subtle, but it’s very strong.”
MW: “Also, it’s a bit more interesting [laughs]. We already know what happens to the man. Of course we could also do a bit more on his side of things, but it’s just more appealing, I would say.”
SG: “I would say one of [Marker’s] innovations is the use of female narration, not in La Jetée, but it’s also in Level Five, and Sans Soleil. So it’s like, how to fold back those innovations into one of his earlier pieces.”
JE: “And for us, I think we were quite interested in exploring a kind of Rashomon aesthetic, so having it from multiple perspectives.”
“The question of memory, desire, loss, trauma, skews how we see these things, how we remember and re-experience these moments.” - Ms. Haptic
MW: “It’s quite an interesting approach, I think, because his story is, like, twisting around her.”
JE: “Like a double helix.”
SG: “You can kinda see it happening already in the original, because he’s telling his story from multiple points in time. So we just take that further, and tell it from different points in time, from different characters.”
The original has a theme of recurrence, so this is like variations on a theme of recurrence.
JE: “Yes. And also in terms of how we remember. We may experience the same phenomena, but it’s those minute and individualistic aspects of remembering that change the parameters of what we’ve experienced, and what we’ve seen. Obviously, the question of memory, desire, loss, trauma, skews how we see these things, how we remember and re-experience these moments. I think those are the things we’ve tried to push through.”
Did Chris Marker end up having anything to do with the project?
SG: “No, I think he was resistant to the idea of someone – anyone – doing a new soundtrack to essentially what is like a perfect, pristine bit of film history. Kind of understandable. But after that reaction, we just kept it away from him. [laughs]”
Has he seen it?
SG: “No. We may do it in London later in the year, so he may have to become aware of it at some point. I suppose with these kinds of projects, it’s nice to think that the original creator would like it, or would approve of it. Ultimately, paying too much attention to that is like a block. So you really have to bracket that. If people paid so much attention to that, there’d be no sampling in the history of music, and so on. So you really have to ignore that for a bit, and let the project grow. And if it’s interesting, then is the better time.”
MW: “In the end, it’s still our reinterpretation. You don’t need permission to understand something in your way.”
SG: “Yeah: ‘Please, will you sanction our love for your work?’ [laughs]”
MW: “Nevertheless, of course we would love him loving it.”
“Chris Marker’s in his 90s. I’d be worried Her Ghost would give him a heart attack.” - Kode9
I feel like he would.
SG: “I don’t know, he’s in his 90s. I’d be worried it would give him a heart attack. [laughs]”
JE: “130 decibels!”
SG: “Yeah, if we were unsettling Roly [Porter’s] nervous system, I’d be worried about Chris Marker’s.”
JE: “I think even in the feedback we have from the performance – not just here, but in other performances – we’ve seen it slightly change, whether it’s because it’s done live as opposed to watching it in the film dynamic, the viscerality of it, the affective tension of it, particularly played out through sound, and the strafing of the images, and the work that [MFO] do – that it’s much more…sometimes claustrophobic; it sometimes feels quite expansive, and other times, you get that sense of dread and fear coming through.”
SG: “There is definitely a contrast between the kind of gentle, quiet spoken-word parts, and the audiovisual assaults – once you’ve been attacked once, you get the feeling you’re going to be attacked again.”
The sound and the image, and the narration, to a certain extent, are very tangible and tactile. Were you after a haptic quality of being able to touch these elements?
Lucy Benson: “Yes. At the beginning of the first act, and most of the animation that you see throughout the whole piece, is actually done with analogue or hand-held movements, and then filmed. So, the blurs and coming in and out of focus and stuff is actually done with an actual slide projector and film and various techniques. So all of that stuff is quite important, in the first act, particularly, dealing with this memory and nostalgia, and looking back through images. I think it was quite personal: someone sitting there with a bunch of images and going through them by hand.”
MW: “The first act was made like: A) Marker did this piece with just still images, breaking the medium of film down to its bare minimum of still images. So, we used still images and redeveloped it on slide projector film. And the other idea was the slide projector as a symbol for memory. Much more was done with blurring the images out to also reflect the process of memory, which is often blurry. You just remember the good parts.”
“My music is a bit less romantic, less whimsical, and a bit more smoldering and tense and chaotic, I suppose. Curdled is the word I keep returning to.” - Kode9
What about from the sound side?
SG: “Well, the original sound and music is very romantic, stock classical music. It wasn’t composed specifically for the film; it’s kind of classical library music. But really amazing sound design in the original: the whispers, the heartbeat, the drones, were quite advanced for the time, in a way. 95% of the sounds in our version are just like what [MFO] were doing with the image, really, just through looping and pitching and reversing and manipulating, and trying to squeeze some new potential out of the original sounds. And then there are a couple of newer sounds in the middle.
“When it gets quite dark in the middle, it’s kind of the sound of breaking glass, chinking, crystally: I just added that in not because it’s in the scene or in the image – though it does work with some of the micromovements in the image – but more to just get this idea of a broken crystal of time. That is certainly what the original, and what our version, is about. That crystal is what refracts the same story from lots of different points of view. It’s shattered. So that’s coming in there, and there are some other synth sounds that are from a documentary – the Future Shock documentary, the one that Orson Welles narrated. ['Future Shock'] was the theme of the Unsound festival where we played at…the first iteration of it. Those sounds work really well with the final section of the piece. So, 95% is squeezed out of the original, and there are just a couple of new sounds. Then, just to lead to Jess, the one thing we really wanted to retain from Marker was this affective tone in the voice as well, which is always a kind of deadpan, monotone delivery that we wanted to maintain.”
JE: “Yeah, I’m attempting a delivery that oscillates somewhere, or rather, recombines somewhere between a dispassionate over-viewing of this future that’s unfolding, but at the same time, there’s a kind of quality of a…I don’t know if it’s a regret? So, I think I’m trying to find my way to a sort of remorse that this is the only eventuality, or the only future that has unfolded, for us or for humanity. But at the same time, as you see in Marker’s other documentaries, there’s this detachment. So, there are moments, because I’m obviously working in consort with the visuals and Steve’s sound design, that it depended on how you manipulate the images in that moment in response to Steve, and depending on where you go in the kind of live sound of the piece, it affects the performance of the delivery, of the voice. So, I’ll sometimes feel more tension, or sometimes when Marcel gets all romantic…[laughs]”
“You’re always trying to find that balance, that equilibrium, between being overly emotional and then looking at the waste that humanity is.” - Ms. Haptic
JE: “Particularly in those moments when they come together. But you’re always trying to find that balance, that equilibrium, between being overly emotional and then looking at the waste that humanity is.”
SG: “Yeah, I’m not a big fan of the music in the original, so I definitely wanted to take that somewhere else. So, it’s a bit less romantic, and a bit less whimsical, and a bit more smoldering and tense and chaotic, I suppose. Curdled is the word I keep returning to. It definitely hits you in the gut as curdled milk would. [laughs]”
JE: “Yeah, we talk about curdled milk.”
SG: “The Curdler! That’s my new moniker. Every track I make will be like a different liquid. [laughs]”
MW: “There’s a technique that applies to all three elements of the piece – the sound, the script, and the videos – that is this dogmatic approach to take all the bases out of the original by sampling, but then it’s extended, transformed, mutated, or just textured, so that we can tell our own story with these methods of changing it. But still, it’s always based on the original.”
SG: “Yeah, it’s a great self-discipline in an age of too much choice…”
JE: “… to work within confines.”